GROWING RESISTANCE AGAINST HORGAN AND TRUDEAU ENERGY POLICIES

The courts and both the federal and provincial governments continue to back the drive by energy corporations to expand the extraction and export of fossil fuels in British Columbia, but resistance is also rising. Over a thousand people marched through downtown Vancouver on January 11, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and members who oppose construction of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline across their unceded Indigenous territories.

Many in the crowd were environmental and social justice activists, speaking out against the pipeline which would bring fracked liquid natural gas to an LNG terminal in Kitimat. The project would dramatically boost BC’s carbon emissions in exchange for several thousand temporary jobs, and economic benefits which are impossible to predict given the current glut of hydrocarbons on global markets.

The CGL/Kitimat project puts the spotlight on the provincial NDP government’s mixed record on carbon emissions and Indigenous rights.

Elected partly in response to the former Liberal government’s abysmal stand on these issues, Premier John Horgan’s NDP has tried to satisfy corporate pressures while claiming to support Indigenous rights. The BC legislature recently became the first in Canada to pass a law to implement the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a move which was welcomed by every major First Nations organization in the province.

The NDP has strongly opposed twinning of the TransMountain (TMX) pipeline, which would expand the amount of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands for delivery to tankers on Burrard Inlet. That controversial project, heavily backed by the federal Liberal government, is widely condemned as a danger to coastal waters by residents of the Metro Vancouver area, and by the nearby Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.

The Horgan government had attempted to require provincial permits before heavy oil could be shipped across BC. But a January 16 Supreme Court of Canada decision upholds a BC Court of Appeal ruling that such permits would violate Ottawa’s constitutional authority to approve and regulate pipelines that cross provincial boundaries. The ruling removes one of the last legal obstacles blocking the expansion.

On the other hand, there were some hopes that the NDP’s UNDRIP legislation would bring a shift away from backing LNG expansion, such as provincial tax breaks for the industry. But Horgan now argues that his government’s Bill 41 was intended to cover the period looking forward, not projects such as the CGL pipeline which have already received formal approval.

Horgan’s position makes it crystal clear that his government will not stand with Wet’suwet’en people and allies who are holding out in -30 temperatures, defying court injunctions and the RCMP in their struggle to keep Coastal Gas Link out of their lands, the Yintahs.

A year ago, the RCMP arrested unarmed land defenders, and there are fears that a similar round of arrests could take place soon. The UK-based Guardian newspaper recently revealed that before the January 2019 raid, RCMP officers were given permission to shoot land defenders. This time around, the RCMP has created an “exclusion zone” around the pipeline route, alleging that land defenders are preparing to use violence.

As tensions build, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are calling on Horgan to oppose police action. Instead, the premier has refused to meet with the Chiefs, and indicates he will support a raid on the camp in order to uphold corporate interests over Indigenous rights.

In response, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, BC Civil Liberties Association, British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union, and UBC law professor Margot Young held a news conference on January 17 to condemn the RCMP’s exclusionary zone.

According to UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, “We expect the provincial government and BC RCMP to honour the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent setting Delgamuukw/Gisday’way case and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples in all their decisions and actions. For Wet’suwet’en people to be denied access to their own territories as a result of a police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial-era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long.” SOURCE

Is our right to peaceful protest disappearing?

Photo by Unifor: Some members of the Regina Police Service line up as they confront workers on Unifor’s picket line outside of the Co-op Refinery.

The right to protest is an important part of Canadian democracy and the right to free expression.

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the freedom of peaceful assembly. Protests are a way for people to express themselves for or against decisions made by government or other powerful institutions. People have taken to the streets throughout history to stand up for what they believe in.

But more and more, we are seeing examples of this freedom of expression being criminalized. Companies and corporations are obtaining court orders and bringing in the police, who are using physical force and arrests to criminalize dissent and silence protestors.

We saw it happen in Montebello, Quebec as thousands of people gathered to protest the proposed Security and Prosperity Partnership as then-prime minister Stephen Harper met behind closed doors with his U.S. and Mexican counterparts. We saw it in 2010 at G20 protests in Toronto as riot police used excessive physical force to round up and detain protestors. (And it’s worth noting that federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair was Toronto’s chief of police during this time.) Indigenous Peoples have also faced police force when protecting land and water.

Right now, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and land defenders are protecting their unceded territory from construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which if constructed, would send fracked gas to a terminal on the coastal shores. Members of the First Nation have a right to say no to development, especially when it brings the threat of a spill that could result in serious environmental damage to the land and water. The Wet’suwet’en have a camp and buildings in the area, are hunting and trapping animals, and living off the land, peacefully occupying their territory.

The RCMP recently set up a perimeter and appears to be preparing to enforce a court injunction to evict these Indigenous Peoples from their land. One year ago, RCMP officers violently confronted Indigenous Peoples in the same location – and there is real concern in will happen again.

Then, this week in Regina, labour activists from Unifor who set up a peaceful and legal picket line in front of Co-op Refinery Complex were confronted by dozens of police officers from the Regina Police Service. Video of the confrontation show police forcibly removing protestors. There are also reports of one protestor being struck as police moved a vehicle. Fourteen people were arrested, including Unifor President Jerry Dias.

It was recently revealed the police action happened the same day the Regina Police Service received a letter from the head of the local trucking company calling for action.

“I’ve been walking picket lines for over 40 years and there is one common role for police and that is to ensure situations do not escalate,” said Dias the day after his arrest. “This is not what happened last night. As a matter of fact, police showed up and it was clear the sole purpose they were there was to escalate the situation and that’s what they did.”

He said more Unifor members and labour activists from other unions will be joining the line to fight for workers’ right to bargain. Co-op, a company that pulls in $3 million in profits every day, has locked refinery workers out after they refused to accept cuts to their pension plan. Unifor has vowed to stop Co-op from continuing work at the refinery and has set up a picket line to block the entrance. The company continues to fly scab workers and management into the facility by helicopter.

“Since the arrests last night, our members are flying in from across the country in droves to get here to Regina, because they’re not going to watch the police bully and push around our members,” Dias said in an interview with media.

According to the Regina Leader-Post, in a statement, Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said he spoke to both sides in the labour dispute to convey that the government believes “the best agreements are reached through bargaining.” Unifor has stated it is prepared to return to the bargaining table – the company is not.

“While our government is concerned with the increasingly aggressive tactics being used in this labour dispute, we are encouraged by the Regina Police Service’s diligence in upholding the law and keeping the peace,” said Minister Morgan, giving tacit government approval for the police’s forceful actions.

The Council of Canadians is concerned with the growing trend of police force being used to disrupt or stop peaceful protests. Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. Workers have the right to protect their jobs and benefits, to bargain disputes at the bargaining table – and when that doesn’t work, to strike. People across the country have the right to take to the streets to speak out against the actions – or inaction – of our governments and other powerholders.

Our democracy is at risk if our right to peaceful protest is taken away.

SOURCE

 

Report ‘buried’ by Alberta government reveals ‘mounting evidence’ that oil and gas wells aren’t reclaimed in the long run

A previously unreleased report obtained by The Narwhal shows a government division — soon to be scrapped by premier Jason Kenney — raised red flags about the province’s failing system for wellsite cleanup

pump jack Alberta Todd Korol The Narwhal

The Narwhal has obtained a previously unreleased  report commissioned by the Alberta government that raises red flags about whether the government’s own program to ensure oil and gas sites are cleaned up is actually working in the long term.

The 55-page report, obtained through a freedom of information request, cites “mounting evidence” that Alberta’s land reclamation program is not ensuring former oil and gas sites meet regulatory requirements in the long run, and instead confirms that, of the sites studied so far by an internal government pilot project, all but one failed to meet the government’s standards.

A former senior government official (who asked to remain anonymous) with knowledge of the report told The Narwhal that releasing the report was “seen as an extreme risk to the department” and that there was “extreme pushback” against it being made public.

The former official described the report as a “valuable piece of science” and one “that needed to be publicly reported.”

But “politically inconvenient” reports, the official said, were often “buried” within the department, regardless of the government in power.

The province’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government has indicated that the office that has been working on this research — the environmental monitoring and science department — will soon be eliminated, and its staff “integrated” into other government departments.

‘The public needs to know that this land is being degraded’

There are nearly half a million oil and gas well sites in Alberta, covering an estimated 400,000 hectares — an area approximately five times the size of Calgary.

For the last century, oil and gas companies have made a promise to Albertans — that the wells they’ve drilled across the province would one day be cleaned up. Companies promised that land would be returned to just as good as before drilling, sometimes even boldly claiming it would end up even better.

The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the legislation that governs how companies must act to protect the environment, requires that operators — like those drilling oil and gas wells — fulfill “the objective of protecting the essential physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the environment against degradation.”

But the report finds that the government’s reclamation certificate program is unable to ensure this is happening in the long run.

The government updated its reclamation criteria in 2010, requiring cleaned-up well sites to achieve a sort of equivalence with nearby land. The government issues certificates to sites to mark them as officially cleaned up, called reclamation certificates.

However, many reclaimed sites are not actually reclaimed at all, according to the report.

In farmer’s fields, the exact outlines of well pads may be clearly visible through crop degradation.  MORE

What we mean when we say Indigenous land is ‘unceded’

Inside the Gidimt’en Checkpoint on Wet’suwet’en territory in December 2019. The camp was dismantled by Coastal GasLink contractors in early 2019, and then rebuilt and reoccupied. Photo by Michael Toledano

You might be living on unceded land.

To be more precise: the Maritimes, nearly all of British Columbia and a large swath of eastern Ontario and Quebec, which includes Ottawa, sit on territories that were never signed away by the Indigenous people who inhabited them before Europeans settled in North America. In other words, this land was stolen.

What to do about it, however, is deeply complex ⁠— and legal questions about how to handle claims to unceded land have become a subject of public discussion as members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northeastern British Columbia have reoccupied their territory and attempted to block the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Similar cases over Indigenous land titles are moving through courts across Canada.

Canada’s Constitution is clear that Indigenous land rights exist, said Benjamin Ralston, a lecturer and researcher at the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. But in practice, fights over exactly what those rights are can take decades to resolve in court or in treaty negotiations, revealing “cognitive dissonance” in the system.

“The real problem is, what do we do about it now, while these slow processes are proceeding?” he said.

In the case of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink, at issue is a divide between the traditional Wet’suwet’en legal system, Canada’s legal system, those who have stood to protect the land in question and those who want to see the pipeline built.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans, who oppose the pipeline. However, there are also five elected band councils created by Canada’s colonial Indian Act, and some of the councils have supported the project.

A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed that the provincial government can’t extinguish Wet’suwet’en rights to their land. However, the court also sent the case back from a second trial that hasn’t yet happened, leaving key questions unresolved.

Last year, the RCMP violently arrested Wet’suwet’en people and supporters in the disputed area, with the Guardian reporting earlier this year that police had been prepared to use lethal force. Earlier this month, the RCMP set up a checkpoint to control access to the area after a B.C Supreme Court judge extended an injunction to force out the Wet’suwet’en in the camps and allow construction on the pipeline to continue.

“We are not trespassing,” Ta’Kaiya Blaney, one of several Victoria, B.C., activists arrested and released after a protest supporting the Wet’suwet’en earlier this week, said in a video posted on Facebook.

Wet’suwet’en Nation territory in northeastern British Columbia is just one example of a dispute over unceded land.

“Coastal GasLink is trespassing, those cops are trespassing. They have no jurisdiction to violate Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous youth on stolen land.”

‘Duty to consult’ an imperfect solution

The Wet’suwet’en are far from the only ones asserting their title to their traditional lands.

In Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaq people have pushed for recognition of their unceded territory. In Ottawa, several Algonquin groups claim the land that Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada sit on. And in 2014, Tsilhqot’in Nation in B.C. became the first to prove title to their land in court.

In 2017, about 140 groups of Indigenous people who never signed treaties were negotiating with Canada’s federal government, the New York Times reported.

Several court cases have reaffirmed that the Canadian government has a duty to consult Indigenous people in cases that will impact their rights, which is meant to be an extra protection while land-title cases get resolved. But that protection is imperfect: duty to consult “is not necessarily going to give you the full benefit of stopping a project,” Ralston said.

In general, courts have also been reluctant to allow Indigenous land claims as a reason to block injunctions.

In a broader sense, however, there are international considerations as well. In November, B.C. passed a bill aligning its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a landmark document that, among other things, protects Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-government and right to consent to resource-development projects on their territories.

B.C. is the first Canadian jurisdiction to implement UNDRIP ⁠— the document was passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007 over Canada’s objections, and the country has so far been reluctant to formally implement it. It’s not clear how the document could play in future disputes.

In the case of Coastal GasLink, B.C.’s independent Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination have all criticized the provincial government, saying Coastal GasLink violates UNDRIP principles.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, meanwhile, has said the province’s law is not retroactive and Coastal GasLink will go ahead. SOURCE

RELATED:

Coastal Gaslink pipeline threatens healing centre, says Unist’ot’en Camp

Energy Transformation Can Create More than 40m Jobs in Renewable Energy

IRENA report findings released alongside the launch of new Sustainable Energy Jobs Platform during 10th Assembly

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 10 January 2020 – Renewable energy could employ more than 40 million people by 2050 under the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) climate safe energy path, according to a report published by the Agency during its 10th Assembly. The report finds that total energy sector employment can reach 100 million by 2050, up from around 58 million today should the international community utilise its full renewable energy potential.

Entitled ‘Measuring the socio-economics of transition: Focus on jobs’, the report offers detailed insights on how the energy transition will impact employment at both global and regional levels. The analysis highlights the potential of regional disparities in job creation with job gains in some parts of the world outpacing losses in others. The identification of policies to balance the impact of the transition while maximising the socioeconomic opportunities is noted as key.

IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera spoke of the importance of the Agency’s work to understand the socioeconomic benefits associated with the energy transition. “Everybody is talking about a just transition but not many know how to make it happen. We all have to work on this subject to present a clear voice that supports an inclusive transition.

The report findings were presented at the launch of a new joint platform during the IRENA Assembly. The Sustainable Energy Jobs Platform brings together a number of development actors in pursuit of an inclusive and just transition for all. The cross-section of international public and private sector organisations involved seek to present and promote an integrated approach to the achievement of sustainable development goals seven and eight.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the new Sustainable Energy Platform, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s (UNIDO) Industrial Development Officer, Rana Ghoneim touched upon the centrality of renewables to sustainable industrial policy noting that renewables are increasingly becoming a focus of the organisation’s work. UNIDO are a platform member together with GGGI, GOGLA, GWNET, ILO, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, SELCO Foundation and Power4All.

In addition to emphasising gender balance, diversity in the workforce, and rural economic development, the platform highlights the need for educational and skill-training policies that keep in mind workers and communities whose livelihoods rely on fossil-fuel based industries in order to facilitate their participation in the new energy economy.

SOURCE

Sanders Seizes Lead in Volatile Iowa Race, Times Poll Finds

With solid support from liberals, Mr. Sanders appears to be peaking just as the caucuses approach. But many Iowa voters said they could still change their mind.

Image result for nytimes: With solid support from liberals, Mr. Sanders appears to be peaking just as the caucuses approach. But many Iowa voters said they could still change their mind.

DES MOINES — Senator Bernie Sanders has opened up a lead in Iowa just over a week before the Democratic caucuses, consolidating support from liberals and benefiting from divisions among more moderate presidential candidates who are clustered behind him, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely caucusgoers.

Mr. Sanders has gained six points since the last Times-Siena survey, in late October, and is now capturing 25 percent of the vote in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. have remained stagnant since the fall, with Mr. Buttigieg capturing 18 percent and Mr. Biden 17 percent.

The rise of Mr. Sanders has come at the expense of his fellow progressive, Senator Elizabeth Warren: she dropped from 22 percent in the October poll, enough to lead the field, to 15 percent in this survey. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is garnering 8 percent, is the only other candidate approaching double digits.

The changing fortunes of the two liberal candidates, and the secondary position of the two leading centrists, underscores the volatile nature of the Democratic primary after more than a year of campaigning, as voters wrestle with which of the contenders can defeat President Trump. At various times over the past six months Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg had surged in Iowa, only to fall back, while Mr. Biden’s strength has ebbed and flowed here even as he remained at the top of the polls nationally.

But Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont making his second run for the White House, appears to be peaking at the right time: this month was the first time he has finished atop a poll in Iowa, after also leading a Des Moines Register-CNN survey two weeks ago. The Times-Siena poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Despite Mr. Sanders’s ascent, the combined strength of the moderate candidates is unmistakable. The poll showed that 55 percent of those surveyed said they preferred a standard-bearer who is “more moderate than most Democrats.” Just 38 percent said they wanted one who is “more liberal than most Democrats.”

Image result for nytimes:Siena College poll

A victory by Mr. Sanders in Iowa, where he suffered a narrow loss to Hillary Clinton four years ago, would represent a remarkable comeback for a 78-year-old candidate whose heart attack in October threatened to upend his candidacy. It would also create a moment of high anxiety for establishment-aligned Democrats who are deeply alarmed about a potential Sanders nomination.

Should he prevail in Iowa and face a similarly fractured field of mainstream rivals in New Hampshire, where he also currently leads in the polls, Mr. Sanders could be difficult to slow.
Several voters who backed Mr. Sanders cited the consistency of his positions over the course of his career, and their ideological alignment with his views.

“Bernie’s authentic,” said Austin Sturch, 25, of Evansdale, adding, “Pretty much everything he’s saying — I can’t put it better than he can.”

Still, much here remains uncertain. Iowa voters are famous for settling on a candidate late, and this year is no different; Mr. Sanders, along with the other senators in the race, is pinned down in Washington during Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial and unable to campaign here on weekdays. And the final results could turn on two factors that will not be known until caucus night: the size and composition of the electorate, and the preferences of voters whose first choices are eliminated because of the arcane caucus rules. SOURCE

New Poll Finds Canadians Do Not Trust Nuclear Energy and Reactors

Image result for pickering nuclear

EMERGENCY ALERT ABOUT INCIDENT AT PICKERING NUCLEAR PLANT “SENT IN ERROR”: OPG

January 13, 2020 (Ottawa) – In a national poll administered this month to over 2000 Canadians, Friends of the Earth Canada finds strong concerns over the threat of contamination by nuclear reactors and nuclear energy to local drinking water and neighbourhood safety and security.

More than eight out of ten (82%) Canadians are concerned about nuclear spills that would contaminate drinking water and almost eight out of ten (77%) cite concerns about neighbourhood safety and security risks close to nuclear plants.

Respondents were asked if the provincial governments of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan were on the right path by selecting small modular nuclear reactors to deal with climate change.  Seven out of ten younger respondents (70%), aged 18-34 said it is the wrong path while more than six out of ten (63%) Canadians aged 35-64 also said it’s the wrong path.

“The Emergency Alert about an incident at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station brings home how vulnerable people and our environment are to nuclear contamination and how unprepared the public is to respond to a real nuclear accident in Canada,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada.  “Our polling results show that a majority of Canadians feel the small nuclear option is the wrong path to deal with climate change.”

Oracle Poll Research conducted the 2,094 person national poll on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada in January 2020 (margin of error for total N=2094 sample is ± 2.1%, 19 times out of 20).

Read the poll results

TAKE ACTION! Reject Teck

One of the largest oil sands projects you’ve never heard of could  break ground in the New Year.

Image result for green party of canada: One of the largest oil sands projects you’ve never heard of could break ground in the New Year.

It’s called Teck Frontier Mine, and it will destroy old-growth forest, pollute precious watersheds and make it impossible to meet our climate targets.

Sounds terrible. So why haven’t you heard about it? Because the oil executives want it that way so they can continue to make billions while offering precarious employment and destroying the environment.

Paul Manly, Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, is hard at work to stop this mine before it’s too late. The Environment Minister will make his decision in February. Can you send your own letter to to convince the Liberals to Reject Teck?

Not only will this project destroy precious ecosystems vital to endangered caribou and bison, but it will release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and make it impossible for Canada to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Climate leaders don’t expand the oil sands in the middle of a climate crisis. Send your letter to the Environment Minister today and deliver a clear message that Canadians expect bold climate action. If enough of us raise our voices, we can get the Liberals to block this reckless proposal.

Send this letter to

Dear Jonathan Wilkinson,

I’m writing to you today to ask you to reject Teck Frontier Mine.

This oil sands mega-mine will push Canada’s carbon emissions to a point of no return. It will release six megatons of C02 per year and prop up a dying fossil fuel industry.

If built, it will violate Indigenous rights, destroy old-growth forest, pollute precious watersheds and destroy the habitats of endangered caribou and bison.

In this year’s election, an overwhelming majority of Canadians voted for climate action. Yet Canada continues to expand the oil sands.

We cannot be climate leaders and build the Teck Frontier mine.

Please reject this project.


 SEND THIS LETTER TODAY


RELATED:

Trudeau and His North Van Climate Minister Are ‘Wrestling’ with a Massive Oilsands Decision

Teck’s Frontier mine would kill emissions targets, say analysts.

Green Myths Canada’s LNG Sales Force Tells the World

No, methane’s no fix for global coal-fired energy. Here’s why.

Trudeau-Horgan-Handshake-Cover.jpg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan shake hands as LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz, back right, watches during a news conference in October 2018. Photo by Darryl Dyck, the Canadian Press.

Dave Nikolejsin, deputy minister of the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, for example, flew to Japan last September along with members of the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources.

There they tried to impress upon the Japanese attendees “the role of Canadian LNG in meeting global climate policy objectives and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.”

The pitch goes like this: According to LNG Canada, the big Shell project now under construction in northern B.C., could replace 20 to 40 coal-fired plants in countries like China and India with Canadian methane, and reduce their emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes.

That’s impressive, says LNG Canada, because 90 million tons equals about 80 per cent of Canada’s car pollution. Or all of B.C.’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, Darren Gee, president and CEO of Peyto Exploration, which fracks for gas in B.C., believes Canada has a “moral obligation to provide the rest of the world with the country’s clean, responsibly-developed energy to improve lives and preserve the environment.”

And so, while the blockaders of northern B.C.’s LNG Canada pipeline await police eviction while claiming to stand up for Indigenous sovereignty and climate protection, backers of the project lay claim to their own moral high ground.

Such claims are problematic, if not false. The best evidence to date reveals two quite inconvenient truths.

One, B.C.’s LNG is not cleaner than coal, due to leakage rates in our fracked shale fields of three per cent.

Two, there is no guarantee that China will use Canadian gas to actually displace coal power production, given that coal-fired plants already operate as efficiently as methane-fueled ones.

Let’s take those in order.

1. Leaky LNG actually poses a bigger climate threat than coal

It’s true that LNG burns cleaner than coal, but when unburned and released into the atmosphere it is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Methane’s warming effect is 87 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, and 36 times greater over a 100-year period.

And thanks to fracking, a lot of LNG does escape unburned into the atmosphere, the amount accelerating in recent years due to venting, flaring, leaks, spills and other factors tied to the drilling method.

Methane emissions rose in the last two decades of the 20th century and then stabilized in the first decade of 21st century. But between 2008 and 2014 — at the height of the fracking boom — methane levels climbed from 570 billions tons to 595 billion tonnes annually.

Robert Howarth, a professor at Cornell University, recently calculated that one-third of total rising global methane emissions came from one source, “the commercialization of shale gas and oil in the 21st century.”

If you want to slow global warming immediately, Howarth recommends, “the best strategy is to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas, reducing both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.”

Meanwhile the industry’s supply chain has developed a multi-billion-dollar methane leakage problem.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the industry annually flares off more than five trillion cubic feet of methane, or several billions of dollars worth, mostly as waste from fracked oil fields.

Last year, satellite imagery discovered that just one major well methane blow-out at a well site in Ohio released more methane into the atmosphere than several European countries over a 20-day period. Well blow-outs happen in Alberta and B.C. too.

According to Environmental Defence Fund, which has carefully studied methane leakage in conjunction with industry experts for years, three per cent of the methane produced at shale gas fields leak and destabilize the atmosphere. “The potency of those emissions make natural gas from these sites worse than U.S. coal in terms of its impact on climate change.”

Analysts note that if industry kept this leakage rates below one per cent, it could argue that methane is cleaner than coal. But to date they haven’t.

Canada’s conventional and shale gas industry has long under reported its so-called “fugitive emissions.” They occur at well sites, tanks, compressor stations, gas processing plants and pipelines — the whole supply chain feeding liquified natural gas.

One significant 2018 study measured methane leaks at 60 oil and gas sites near Red Deer, Alberta. It found emissions at ground level were 15 times higher than industry reported to regulators and Canada’s national inventory for tracking methane emissions.

A recent paper on the state of leaking wells in British Columbia also emphasized that under-reporting was a major problem. It estimated that 10 per cent (2329 wells) of the province’s 21,000 wells tested for leakage spew about 75,000 tonnes of methane a year. “However, this number is likely higher due to underreporting.”

The study explains that reporting of wellbore leakage in B.C. only goes as far back as 1995, and there is currently no requirement to test for leaks at the province’s nearly 6,000 abandoned wells. “In Canada, there is no requirement to monitor wells for leakage following their abandonment, despite the fact that gas leakage from abandoned wells in the province is a well-documented phenomenon.”

Even the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a pro-industry group, has aptly summed up the problem of extensive methane leakage from industry: “There is a consensus about a knowledge gap in the amount of methane emitted from the natural gas supply chain.”

851px version of LNG-Landscape.jpg
The LNG Canada project under construction near Kitimat, B.C. The province’s LNG is not in fact cleaner than coal, due to leakage rates in our fracked shale fields. Photo by Robin Rowland, the Canadian Press.

2. There is no guarantee LNG will ‘replace’ Asia’s coal burning

But what about industry’s claim that Canada’s clean LNG will replace dirty coal-fired power in China and India?

That doesn’t conform with reality. Recent Canadian research on Chinese household behaviour illustrates why.

Chinese homeowners adopted new clean stoves but kept their coal and wood stoves working too. Canadian researchers noted that “Efforts made by governments, NGOs, and researchers to incentivize households to switch entirely to clean fuel stoves and give up their traditional stoves — even in highly controlled randomized trials — have largely failed.”

In fact, people rarely substitute energy sources because they prefer to augment them and thereby use more energy. In all likelihood LNG imports would end up just supplementing energy demand.

In fact, a major component of China’s climate plan has nothing to do with methane. It encourages replacing inefficient, older coal plants with ultra-efficient ones.

David Hughes, one of Canada’s foremost energy analysts, recently did the math on life cycle methane emissions from B.C. LNG and new coal plants in China. He found that “best-technology coal would have 19.2 per cent fewer emissions at 20 years than B.C. LNG.”

In other words, “B.C. LNG used to generate electricity in China compared to best-technology coal would increase global emissions, thereby exacerbating an already extremely serious climate problem.”

Don’t expect to hear any of this if you’re in the audience when Canada’s virtue-signalling LNG boosters make their pitch. SOURCE

How the ‘New NAFTA’ Will Affect Canadians

Small gains for workers, but the environment gets a shoddy deal.

COVER.FreelandCUSMAEffect.jpg

Increases in drug costs were averted in the new CUSMA deal, but environmental protections remain weak. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press

After months of talks, House Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed on revisions to the Canada–U.S.–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) that will likely clear the way for U.S. congressional approval.

Although Canada was sidelined in these discussions, the Democrats won some significant improvements to the “New NAFTA” that will benefit Canadians.

The biggest change is the removal of proposed longer data protection periods for biologic medicines, such as treatments for Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Data protection periods refer to the time competitors are denied access to the clinical trials data used to secure regulatory approval for a drug. Generic drug firms need this information to produce cheaper versions, known as biosimilars.

Currently, data protection periods for biologics are set at 12 years in the United States. Congressional Democrats, hoping to roll back that long period of monopoly protection for brand-name biologics makers, had no interest in locking minimum 10-year terms in place, as CUSMA would have done.

Under the original agreement, Canada had to increase its data protection term for biologics from eight to 10 years — at an estimated cost of at least $169 million per year, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That change was dropped from the agreement, and Canadians will now avoid these projected cost increases.

Democrats have won other improvements, including curbing the practice of evergreening, where companies can obtain new patents based on small changes to existing drugs, blocking generic competitors.

One of the biggest sticking points in closing a deal was stricter enforcement of labour standards, with Mexico as the principal target. Democrats initially pushed for independent inspection of workplaces suspected of violating labour standards and the ability to withdraw preferential treatment of shipments from those factories under CUSMA if violations were found.

Mexican employer groups vehemently objected. Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador also rebuffed the demand as an infringement on Mexican sovereignty.

In practice, such inspections are a regular feature of international trade. Canadian and U.S. regulators, for example, routinely inspect foreign food facilities to ensure they comply with food safety standards. If they don’t pass muster, exports from those facilities can be suspended.

In the end, a compromise was reached with Mexico where complaints about workplaces can be heard by panels of independent labour experts and confirmed violations can lead to penalties.

In another positive change to the CUSMA labour chapter, the three countries agreed to loosen the condition that labour abuses be “sustained or recurring” to trigger sanctions, a significant hurdle that has allowed single violations of labour rights, however atrocious, to go unpunished.

These changes and tougher rules protecting Mexican workers’ rights to bargain collectively are an improvement over previous free trade agreements. But they won’t soon close the large manufacturing wage gap with Mexico or halt outsourcing. Indeed, just as a draft version of CUSMA was signed a year ago, General Motors announced plans to shutter five plants in the U.S. and Canada.

In the important auto sector, the U.S. pushed for tougher rules of origin if manufacturers are to qualify for tariff-free treatment under the agreement. Any steel used in auto manufacturing must be “melted and poured” within the NAFTA trade zone. This could be a boon to U.S. and Canadian steel producers.*

It is also possible some auto companies who use offshore steel will simply choose to pay the already low 2.5-per-cent tariff to export to the U.S. Nonetheless, Mexico objected and the steel rules will now be phased in over seven years.*

Democrats achieved scant progress on environmental protection. On a positive note, certain multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, will prevail in the event of any inconsistency with CUSMA’s rules.*

However, the Paris climate agreement, which Trump confirmed the U.S. would be leaving on Nov. 4, 2020, is not among them. U.S. environmental groups are certain to strongly oppose ratification of a trade deal that ignores the threat of climate change and intensifies ecologically unsustainable trade and energy flows.

The agreement, like the original NAFTA, privileges multinational capital and increased trade flows above all else. It weakens environmental policy by insisting it not interfere with trade or impose higher regulatory costs on business. It will sustain the accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Canadians can be thankful the new CUSMA will not result in higher prescription drug costs. We can feel relief that Mexican workers get a chance to form authentic trade unions and to fight to improve their wages and working conditions.

But we should take no solace in the fact politicians and governments have invested so much time and energy in salvaging a discredited trade model as they dither and delay on the climate emergency.

SOURCE

RELATED:

Updated NAFTA deal a profound failure for climate action